With the start of Christmas school holidays, we’re counting down to Christmas with a whole range of family-friendly activities or places to visit during school holidays.
If you’re thinking two weeks is a looooong time to keep your kids entertained, then take a look below for my 5 suggestions for Christmas holidays on the French Riviera which will see you past gift unwrapping, the 13 desserts and wondering where to find those photo booths to get portraits with Santa in your Christmas jumpers. 🙂
Crazy Fact: Today, I learned for the first time about Père Fouettard. Ever heard of him? Well, he is known as ‘Slapping Santa / Santa Spanker / Father Whipper’ in various forms in France and apparently accompanied Saint Nicholas who distributed gifts to children who are good and Père Fouettard bought a whip with him to spank naughty kids. I thought it was part hilarious and part disturbing! There is also a version in Holland, Germany and Austria. I can’t believe I’ve lived here so long and never heard of this crazy tradition, though I think if I get desperate I’ll be introducing Père Fouettard to my boys 🙂
Here’s 5 ideas for things to see and do during Vacances de Noël 2018:
1. Get creative at BRICKLIVE Monaco
After a show at the Saatchi Gallery in London last year, BRICKLIVE is coming to Monaco. From 22 December until 6 January at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, families can enjoy a fun atmosphere and get creative with an interactive event.
Though not officially part of LEGO®Group, the show will have a ton of colourful bricks for kids of all ages to play with.
There will be huge brick pits filled with 250,000 bricks, race ramps where you can build your own car and challenge friends, themed build zones such as a LEGO®Friends area with a Monaco build map, Christmas decorations, Minecraft zone, dance zone and a 10-metre graffiti wall to plant your vertical creations onto. Special features are five life-sized wildlife statues in the ‘Animal Paradise’ zone including an elephant made of 271,000 bricks, and a dedicated zone for Star Wars.
Bricklive Monaco opening hours: Open every day from 10am to 6pm until 6 January (except Christmas Day and New Years Day).
Cost: Adults €20 / Kids under 12 are €16 each / Under 3 years are free.
Buy tickets here: Tickets for Bricklive Monaco
Watch the video below to see what to expect (video courtesy of Bricklive Monaco):
2. Visit the French Riviera Christmas Markets
Visiting the Marchés de Noël is one of the nicest things to do during Christmas school holidays. You’ll find stands selling handicrafts and food, theme park rides such as ferris wheels and mini rollercoasters as well as pop-up ice skating rinks.
Don’t miss visiting the Antibes, Cannes, Nice, Monaco or Valbonne markets as they all offer a different atmosphere and attractions.
I was too busy to write up my usual Christmas market blog post this year, but I’m sharing some links where you can find lists for the various Christmas Markets below:
- RécréaNice has an in-depth guide to the Marches de Noel Côte d’Azur 2018
- Côte d’Azur Tourisme lists Christmas markets on the French Riviera by town with a link to more information
- French Riviera Family Activities has a great round-up of the best of the Côte d’Azurs festive events including carols and markets
- Curious Provence shares some info about Christmas markets in Provence if you want to go a bit further afield than the French Riviera
3. See the nativity crèches in Lucéram
Lucéram isn’t one of the best known villages on the French Riviera, but it’s worth visiting during Christmas because the entire town is decorated in a nativity scene wonderland.
For two decades, locals participate in the annual ‘Circuit des Crèches de Lucéram’ by creating individual crèches during festive season with nativity displays dotted around the upper and lower village. You don’t have to look far to find one – there are around 500 in place with a map provided by the Lucéram tourist office and they are free to visit.
The crèches and santons are literally placed everywhere including doorways, window sills, shop counters and the village lavoirs (communal wash houses).
If you want to see nativity cribs on the French Riviera, then Lucéram is THE place to go – it’s the ultimate showcase for nativity scenes and don’t think you’ll be bored from a repetition of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus or the Three Wise Men because Lucéram’s offering has all sort of characters from French life including bakers, iron mongers, priests, farmers and animals!
This season’s ‘Circuit des Crèches’ runs until 6 January, with special animations on certain days.
If you’ve never visited Lucéram before there are a number of things to see and do outside of Christmas season such as painted chapels including Notre-Dame de Boncoeur, Le Musée de la Crèche as well as walking and mountain biking trails at nearby Peïra Cava. The best option to get to Luceram is by car as the bus schedules are infrequent; driving time is approximately 40 minutes from Nice or Monaco via l’Escarène.
Watch the video below (by Drone de Regard / Lucéram RP):
4. Chill out in the mountains
The French Riviera is known as a place of sea, sand and sunshine but there is plenty happening in the mountains during Christmas school holidays.
Saint-Martin-Vésubie has an ice skating rink, concerts, Christmas films, storytelling sessions for children – even Père Noel arriving by zip line on Christmas Eve! You can find the 2018 programme of activities here: St-Martin-Vésubie Noel animations
Valberg has a range of activities happening over Christmas holidays including fireworks on Christmas Day, a free treasure hunt for kids on 26 December, the famous torchlight descent by the ski school on the 28th December and a New Years Eve party with DJ, snow bar and laser show. Find out more here about Valberg’s Christmas programme.
Auron has a Christmas market as well as free storytelling sessions including Pinocchio from 26 to 28 December. See the dates and times here: Auron Christmas 2018
The Vesúbia Mountain Park hosts Ciné’Eau which are fun cinema screenings where viewers float on swim rings in their pool heated to 32 degrees. You can also choose to sit on a chair poolside if you prefer not to get your feet wet!
The films will be screened on Friday 28 December from 4.30pm. Films on offer are :
4.30pm Coco (a Disney film that’s appropriate for kids)
7pm Jumanji (suitable for older kids)
9.30pm The Shallows (rated PG13 but it is a shark/thriller movie so expect a modern-day Jaws with some gory scenes and bad language)
Reservation is necessary as there are limited places each session. Kids under 6 years have to share a swim ring with a parent, and of course as per public pools in France you need the obligatory dinky swim cap and appropriate swimsuit. I’d estimate a guess that all 3 films will be in French language. Find out more information here about the Ciné’Eau sessions.
Any time of the year, Vesúbia Mountain Park is a very cool attraction to entertain children with climbing walls and nets (minimum age is 5 years), an indoor canyoning zone (minimum age is 10 years and height 1.3metres) and more! Check out their website here: Vésubia Mountain Park
5. Soar sky high over Monaco
Did you know every year you can take a helicopter mini tour over Monaco for a special price at Christmas? That’s right, the friendly team at Heli Air Monaco offer ‘Baptèmes de l’air Père Noel’ each festive season.
It’s a super cool way to treat your children/nieces/nephews and while it is a splurge for some it’s actually a very good deal for such an amazing experience flying over the iconic buildings and coastline of Monaco!
This year, you can take a 5-minute scenic helicopter flight with Heli Air Monaco from 1 December to 6 January for just €35 per person.
Note: All passengers must take their passports AND for each passenger under 18 years of age you must fill in a parental permission form.
To take advantage of this offer you book and pay in advance online – simply choose your preferred date and time slot when you book via the link. Click here for the official Heli Air Monaco Santa Flight booking link; at the question ‘How did you know about first flight Santa Claus?’ please tick the last box and type ‘Access Riviera blog’. Disclaimer: I don’t get any commission for you mentioning my blog, but it’s good for Heli Air Monaco to know that you found out where to book here on Access Riviera!
For a teaser of what to expect, you can watch the video below of my heli tour during Monaco Yacht Show 2018:
Thanks for reading my Christmas blog post! I’m happy to say I’ll be finishing 2018 by reaching over 350,000 views recently so I appreciate every visitor. Please share this post on social media or comment if you found it helpful.
Thank you and have a Merry Christmas!